A couple of evenings ago, I stopped in at the Dormont-Mt. Lebanon Sportsmen Club, hoping a close friend would still be there shooting.

It was the evening that the trap range was open, and Bill was an avid scattergun shooter. I am knowledgeable about rifles, but I cannot say the same about shotguns. I waited quietly – there is a tough thing for me – until Bill finished his round of clay birds and walked over to me.

That is when my plan went downhill.

I had told Kathy I wouldn’t be long and would be home in time for supper. The cause of my cold meal was Bill’s son, who asked me a few questions. I explained to him that I always had an answer. Under my breath, of course, I added it might not be the correct answer but there will be an answer.

First, the question young Bill asked was a very common one. He had bought a new rifle, a .300 Winchester Magnum, and intended to go west to hunt Elk. What bullet should he use? He did ask me bullet and not cartridge. There are a lot of factors that entered into this answer, so I thought about it for a second before replying. Of importance he had chosen one of the great cartridges for the hunting he was planning. On top of all that, he was asking a more experienced hunter that had been re-loading a long, long time.

I thought about it and answered him this way: Confidence in your rifle scope and load are perhaps the most important thing of all. Therefore, if you carry ammo in your pocket that you don’t trust you are asking for failure. You are much younger than me so you will probably do more walking than I would, or for that matter could. With that in mind, I guess there is a better chance of you shooting at the tail end of a departing elk than me. Because of the age difference, the odds are a smidgeon better when he tries a longer shot.

I told him I admired his choice in cartridge, and it does give you power plus a flat trajectory. It is the one round that performs up to what is advertised.

As to what bullet I would use, I would load that big Winchester 300 with a 165-grain partition on top of a case charged with IMR4831. I know there are many other good bullets, but the partition has been around for some time and has proven itself. With what a modern hunt costs today, it is no time to try something new that some writer calls a miracle bullet. Now, to be truthful, I might have a few 180 grain bullets stashed in a pocket just in case I am in black timber. But the 165 is not a bad choice even in heavy cover.

What I am going to say next is true of every hunter under almost every hunting situation. Sight the rifle in and practice, practice, practice. Test the gun’s accuracy and reliability on an offhand shot. The gun should come up smoothly and then one shouldn’t have to squirm about to find the full picture in the scope.

On the other side, the handling quality of the outfit is important to the walking hunter. Always study the drop figures of the bullet out to 400 yards. If you can master 400 yards, then you will cover 90 percent of your hunting. I know you want to be ready for that monster bull that appears at over 500 yards and there is nothing wrong with this but concentrate on the ballistics at 400 yards and closer.

You have a good outfit for the hunt, that is only half the story. Now it is up to you. Importantly, trust your rifle and become comfortable with it. Shoot it as much as possible before heading west. If you follow those rules you will be a successful hunter, whatever game you are looking at.

George Block writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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